Devon’s Covid-testing labs increase capacity to tackle backlog

Coronavirus testing. Picture: Pixabay

Coronavirus testing. Picture: Pixabay - Credit: Archant

Reports of Devon residents being told to go as far away as Cardiff for Covid-19 tests have been ‘raised at the highest possible level’, according to the county’s deputy director of public health.

Steve Brown said laboratories in the county will be asked to increase their capacity for testing.

On Thursday, September 10, he told the Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting that the computer system used for booking tests does not measure distances in terms of travel routes, but ‘as the crow flies’, and this has led to people in North Devon being told to go to Swansea or Cardiff.

He said: “This has been raised at the highest possible level.

“The challenge is about lab capacity, not the tests being issued, and the national solution is ramping up the lab capacity.

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“Locally, there are challenges for us, and one of the immediate solutions we’ve put in place is utilising some of the local laboratory capacity.

“If people are having trouble accessing tests, they can email the CCG and get access to tests that way.

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“It is a short-term solution and we only have a limited capacity, but we are asking local laboratories to try and do more, with a particular focus around the most vulnerable people, schools and some workplaces.

“It’s a national problem, but we are aware of it locally, and we are trying to put in local solutions.”

He said the shortage in capacity was partly being caused by around 25 per cent of tests being used on people who were not displaying any symptoms, or had not been instructed to take a test.

Asked about the Test and Trace system in Devon, Mr Brown said the Devon local authority area was one of the best performing in the country, with 86 per cent of people being reached.

He said in ‘complex situations’ such as cases in schools and workplaces, 100 per cent are being contacted, but added: “Test and Trace is only as good as people filling in the data and Test and Trace only works when people are honest.”

He welcomed the news that hospitality venues will be legally required to record the details of people attending from September 18, saying: “If businesses aren’t collecting and keeping details for 21 days, it is nigh on impossible to them contact trace.”

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